Sophia Takimoana, Sheryl Takiari and Gaylene Te Hore cooking fried bread at the Kai Festival at Founders Heritage Park on Waitangi Day. Photo: Jacob Chandler.

A festival to feast on

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The smell of hangi wafted through the air as visitors were treated to an array of international foods at the Whakatu Marae for the 2015 International Kai Festival on Friday.

The Waitangi Day event drew large crowds which crammed in around both the marae and Founders Heritage Park.

Visitors had the chance to taste a variety of Maori and New Zealand kai including hangi, boil-up pies, whitebait patties, fried bread and raw fish. A number of international stalls were also serving up traditional food such as oliebol, churros, curries and breads.

A long queue of people formed around the hangi pit as the baskets of food were lifted from the hot irons and dished up into paper bowls.

Event organiser Carol Hippolite says she was overwhelmed with the reaction from visitors.

“Most people who I talked to said it was pretty awesome and we didn’t need to change anything. They loved all the performances.”

She says the event attracts a lot of tourists who like to learn about Maori culture. This year she had worked in with the Nelson Provincial Museum to develop display placards and pamphlets to hand out.

She estimates the turnout was close to last year’s number of around 10,000 people.

A Maori art exhibition was on show and there were Kapa Haka and musical performances both on the Marae and Founders Village Green.

The Kai Festival is now in its eighth year and aims to be a grassroots, commercial free festival.